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Destin tops Pletcher exacta in Tampa Bay Derby

By Vance Hanson

Outwork made the pace and Destin finished the job as the Todd Pletcher-trained duo finished one-two in Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs.

Tracking three wide in third as Outwork set splits of :24.04, :47.88, and 1:11.43, Destin ranged up alongside his stablemate passing the quarter pole. Seemingly poised to get beyond Outwork comfortably, Destin instead found a determined foe for much of the stretch run. However, Destin was able to grind past that one inside the final sixteenth to win by a length.

Owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stable and ridden by Javier Castellano, Destin paid $9.20 after setting a new track and stakes record of 1:42.82 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track. Finishing seven lengths behind in third was Star Hill.

This was the second consecutive stakes win over the Tampa strip by Destin, a gray son of Giant’s Causeway. On February 13, he captured the Sam F. Davis (G3) by 2 1/4 lengths, an improved effort over his fourth in the January 16 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds.

After scoring one point toward Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility in the Lecomte and none in the Davis, a non points-scoring race, Destin earned 50 for the Tampa Bay Derby victory, which places him firmly in the top 20 and a spot in the Derby starting gate.

A debut winner going seven furlongs at Belmont and runner-up in his allowance bow at Gulfstream, Destin is clearly getting good at the right time. A full brother to Grade 1 winner Creative Cause produced by Grade 1 vixen Dream of Summer, Destin’s record now stands at 5-3-1-0, $390,700.

“I was very, very pleased with (Destin’s) performance,” Pletcher said. “He seems to be getting more and more professional and is learning how to finish his races. I felt he would improve with more experience and that is proving to be true. After his first two races, he was still piecing things together, but he has gotten better with experience.

“We will assess him but probably would not come back in the Florida Derby (G1), which leaves the Wood Memorial (G1), Blue Grass (G1) or Arkansas Derby (G1) as possibilities.”

Outwork, who won on debut at Keeneland in a 4 1/2-furlong “baby” race last April, returned form a near 10-month break to best allowance foes at Tampa last time going six furlongs. The son of Uncle Mo fared well in this two-turn debut, and jockey John Velazquez obviously thought enough of him to choose him over Destin, whom he rode in the Sam F. Davis. There is more to be heard from Outwork, who earned 20 Derby eligibility points.

The rest of the field barely participated. Among the disappointments were 2-1 favorite Brody’s Cause, the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner who trailed most of the way after an early bump and passed only two rivals in the field of nine.

Other no-shows were Sam F. Davis runner-up Rafting, Swale (G2) hero Awesome Banner, who really needs to shorten up after losing this and the Fountain of Youth (G2) two weeks ago, and the promising Swale runner-up Economic Model, who faded to last after the early scratch of Morning Fire.

(SV Photography)